7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m:, and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Defence any reply to the question I asked on the 22nd August with reference to soldiers being lined up at Menangle Camp?
– The question which the honorable senator asked me was -
Is it a fact that during the strike in New South Wales the soldiers at Menangle Camp were formed up on parade and an officer addressed them, and requested them to say which aide they favoured - that of the Government or that of the men - and that those in favour of the former were ordered to assemble at the railway line when the train was passing, and cheer the “loyal” train officials?
I promised to have inquiries made, and I have been informed by the Military Commandant at Sydney that there is no truth in the statement that officers addressed the men about the strike or requested those who supported the State Government to cheer the trains.
– Has the VicePresident of the Executive Council been able to ascertain the reasonwhy so many votes at the general election were informal?
– The Chief Electoral Officer has supplied me with the following statement: -
It is known that the causes of informality in the case of (approximately) 95 per cent, of the votes rejected are as follow: -
Voting for more candidates than the number to be elected.
Voting for fewer candidates than the number to be elected.
Omitting to vote for any candidates;
Minor causes are striking out names of some of the candidates, and omitting to place crosses opposite the names of the required number of remaining candidates, and placing crosses in such a position as to render the ballot-paper informal on the ground of uncertainty as to the intention of the voter.
House of Representatives.
The principal causes of informality are -
Senate and House of Representatives.
In addition to the causes already indicated -
Note. - A small percentage of electors who have enrolled for the State believe they have also enrolled for the Commonwealth, when, in fact, they have not done so.
In order to assist electors who are absent from their homes on polling day to locate their divisions (if they are in any doubt), the Presiding Officers are provided with printed lists showing the names of all divisions and subdivisions in the Commonwealth, and the names of the centres of population in each division, and the latest print of the roll for the division in which the polling-place is located.
Absent electors are also advised through the press to fully acquaint themselves, prior to polling day with the particulars of their enrolment.
Action is taken by the Electoral Administration to prevent the improper rejection of ballotpapers by officers by the issue of full directions by the Chief Electoral Officer.
Electors are to the fullest practical extent informed as to the requirements of the law in regard to voting by means of -
– Has the Minister for Defence any information available yet as regards what has happened to Otto Schultze, and also the number of men in No. 2 Military District who have enlisted for active service since the 1st February, 1917?
– On the 2nd August the honorable senator asked-
Is Otto Schultze, a naturalized German, who was fined £5 in Sydney for filthy and disloyal language, still at large; and, if not, when was he interned?
The answer to that question is -
It has been ascertained that a naturalized German, named Otto Schultze, was convicted for using obscene language in 1915 in Sydney. He has not been interned.
As regards the other question, the Military Commandant has informed me that 566 employees of the Defence Department in the 2nd Military District have enlisted since the date mentioned.
Withdrawal from Fighting Line.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact, as stated by the Prime Minister during his Bendigo speech, that the Australian troops were withdrawn from the fighting line in France for three months?
– It is a fact that the Australian troops were withdrawn from the fighting line for a term. I am not in a position to say whether the term was three months.
– Will the Minister lay upon the table any information he has as to the time during which the whole of the Australian Forces were withdrawn from the fighting line?
– I shall ascertain whether it is possible to comply with the honorable senator’s request.
Article in the “ Age.”
– I desire, with the indulgence of the Senate, to make a short statement regarding a matter which concerns the conduct of the business of Parliament. In the Age of 30th August there is a long article under the heading of “ Commonwealth Extravagance,” which purports to set out details of largely increased expenditure for the current financial year in the various Commonwealth Departments, including Parliament. With the statement regarding other Departments I have no official concern, and desire to make no mention of them beyond saying that if they are no more accurate than the statement regarding Parliament they would be a fitting subject for amused contempt rather than serious consideration.
The Age’s statement regarding parliamentary expenditure for last year and this year is as follows : -
It concludes with a line in black type - “ Increase, £32,784,” and follows this up by the exclamation, “ There is self-denial for you !”
A much more appropriate exclamation would be, “ There are accurate calculations and fair representation for you !”
In the first place, the Age arrives at the result shown by making a mistake of no’ less than £20,000 in adding up the various items of the estimated expenditure for this year.
– What is £20,000 to the Age?,
– What can you expect from penny-a-liners ?
– It also tries to convey .a very unfair impression by asking the question, “ Why were the salaries of Ministers increased ?” As a matter of fact, the salaries of Ministers have not been increased by even a farthing; they , are exactly the same as last year. The slight difference shown in the amounts set out is due to the fact that last year some of the portfolios were vacant for several weeks.
The general suggestion in the statement, plainly, is that a larger amount has been provided under . each item for the current year than was provided last year. The fact is that in no case is the provision made on the Estimates for the current year greater than that made for last year, with the exception of a very small increase under the item “Printing.” The apparent increase is produced by comparing the amount spent last year with the amount estimated for this year. And this, I think, it will be admitted, is a most unfair comparison.
Pour of the items are what are known as “ Special Appropriations.” These amounts are specified in the Acts providing for the services, and are not strictly part of the votes of each year.
The amounts set out for 1917-18 for (1) Ministers’ salaries, (2) Senators’ allowances, (3) Allowances to members of the House of Representatives, and (4) Public Works Committee, are the amounts provided for under the Acts dealing with the matter, and the full amount is not necessarily spent during the year.
The less’er expenditure in some items last year is accounted for by the fact that last year the House of Representatives was dissolved, which, of course, meant that no allowances were paid to the members until the election had taken place. Also, a senator, who was contesting a seat in the House of Representatives, resigned, and for some weeks his seat as a senator was vacant, and no allowance had to be paid. The Public Works Committee has not been appointed since the dissolution, and consequently no fees have been payable to its members. Further, the expenditure under certain contingencies votes cannot be computed with certainty. For example, provision has to be made for necessary expenses in case a Select Committee is appointed by either House. If no such Committee is appointed, the whole vote is saved.
I would not have referred to this matter but for the fact that there is apparently in some quarters a desire to continually misrepresent Parliament and to distort its proceedings and every fact connected with it, seemingly with a desire to mislead the public. It is important that the proceedings of Parliament, and all facts connected with it, should be accurately placed before the people, whom Parliament represents and who are chiefly concerned. That is why I have deemed it expedient to correct the gross misstatement of the Age at the earliest opportunity.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this Bill.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister make a general statement as to the action taken by the various Common- wealth Departments on matters affecting enemy aliens?
– In order to supply the information desired, and at the same time to comply with our Standing Orders, I propose, by command, to lay on the table of the Senate statement of action taken by the Department of Defence, Department of Home and Territories, and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Does the Australian Tariff operate against products of Papua imported into Australia?
– On behalf of my colleague, I submit the following answer : -
The Australian Tariff makes no special exemption from duty of goods originating in Papua. As far as is known, all products of Papua hitherto imported come within free items of the Tariff.
Motion (by Senator O’Keefe) agreed to-
That two months’ leave of absence be grantedto Senator Long on account of ill health.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing andSessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended, and Bill read a first time.
.- I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I may say, with regard to this and the other Bills, the preliminary stages of which have been so promptly dealt with, that they in no sense involve any principle, but are intended to make certain necessary amendments of the law, and in the case of this particular measure, to place the Treasurer in a position from time to time to pay into the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Trust Fund such sums of money as may be available in the Treasury. This Bill conveys authority to appropriate £10,000,000 for this purpose. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Trust Fund was established some years ago, and moneys paid into it can be withdrawn only for the purpose of paying invalid and old-age pensions. The fund was originally established in order that Commonwealth surplus revenue might bepaid into it, instead of being paid to the States under section 94 of the Constitution. Although the necessity which arises under the Constitution has passed away, the practice still continues of paying sums of money from time to time into this fund, which may be called the banking account for invalid and old-age pensions. I do not think that I need say any more in submitting this Bill.
– What is the necessity for it?
– Itis necessary that Parliament should appropriate the moneys required for the payment of oldage pensions. The Treasurer might come down to Parliament every few months for an appropriation for a particular period. I take it that the payment of these pensions is a matter on which honorable senators and people of all shades of political thought in this country are agreed.
– There is now an increased obligation in. connexion with them.
– That is so. There is not likely to be any disturbance in the direction either of modifying the pensions or repealing the Act, so that Parliament must appropriate money for the purpose. There are two alternative methods which might be adopted. The Government might seek an appropriation from time to time sufficient to meet current needs, or one appropriation might be authorized to cover a larger sum, which, on being paid into the Trust Fund, could be drawn upon from time to time, as the Treasurer was informed as to payments necessary. This Bill will give a general authority, which can be acted upon from time to time as the circumstances of the case require, rather than placing upon Parliament the obligation of making specific appropriations as the money is needed.
– This marks the limit of the Treasurer’s authority.
– Yes. When the Treasurer finds that he has £10,000,000 to spare, he will be authorized under this Bill to pay it into the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Trust Account. If this course were not adopted, the Government would have toask Parliament to approve of the appropriation of the amount necessary to cover payments, we will say, for the next three months. What is here proposed is to do in a wholesale way what every one knows must be done, and what every one is willing should be done. The Bill is merely asking Parliament to give the Government in this matter a large authority instead of a number of small authorities.
– I do not desire that the passage of this Bill should be delayed, but it is a little difficultto understand why we should be asked to appropriate so large a sum as £10,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions, when present requirements for the year amountto no more than £3,830,000. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Trust Fund was established for the purpose of banking our surplus revenue, but it is somewhat peculiar that the Senate, which is the States’ House, should apparently be overlooking the rights of the States. We are here dealing with surplus revenue, which belongs to them. It is not that I do not approve of the banking of that surplus revenue for this purpose, but it seems odd that while the Treasurer should have £10,000,000 of , surplus revenue to pay into the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Trust Fund, he should at the same time be borrowing in the London market to enable the State Governments to carry on their public works. No doubt during war time everything is assumed to be for the best, but representatives of the States should be told why they should appropriate surplus revenue to an amount sufficient to meet the demands upon this fund for three years, whilst at the same time we are borrowing money in the London market, at a high rate of interest, to be handed over to the State Governments to enable them to carry on their public works.
.- I have been rather astonished that there should be any objection to this Bill from honorable senators on the other side.
– There is no objection to it.
– I thought from Senator McDougall’s remarks that there was an objection to securing the old-age pensioners a continuity of the payment of their pensions over a period of years. Before the last election, it was openly stated by those associated with what is now known , as the Official Labour party that if the present National Government of the Commonwealth secured a majority, the Old-age Pensions Fund was the fund upon which they were going to economize.
– Who said that?
– It was said generally all over Australia. Now, when the National Government brings in a Bill to secure to the old-age pensioners their pensions for the next three years, doubt is actually expressed from the other side as to the wisdom of tying up a certain amount of money when there is no surplus shown by the Treasurer. The payment of the pensions of the industrial heroes of the past is the first call upon this nation, and I congratulate the Go- vernment upon having introduced the Bill, which I am sure every member of the National party will whole-heartedly support. It seems strange that whatever objection is raised to it- and I did not think there would be any - has come- from the ranks of the Official Labour party.
– I did not intend to speak on the Bill, but Senator Earle’s endeavours to twist Senator McDougall’s statements were most unfair. To say that Senator McDougall, in his few remarks, raised objections to the Bill is quite an act of deliberate misrepresentation. We are asked to appropriate a sum of £10,000,000, which I take to be about three years’ old-age pensions supply, and Senator Earle immediately pats himself on the back because the Government of which he is a supporter have no intention to interfere with the old-age pensions. I shall be very glad if the Minister in charge of the Bill, when replying, will give the Senate and the country, that assurance.
– What greater assurance do you want than the Bill ?
– I would much rather have it from a Minister holding a responsible position than from one of his followers. During the election there was, as Senator Earle says, a good deal of concern in certain quarters about the intentions of the Government party towards the old-age pensions. One Liberal morning newspaper of Melbourne, supporting the honorable senator and his party, published an article dealing with the amount paid for old-age pensions, and pointing out the enormous saving that could be made in the case of the maternity allowance. The honorable senator may forget these things, but in times of excitement, such as a general election, when an official organ of a party - and you can scarcely call any of the big morning newspapers of Melbourne and Sydney anything else than official organs of the Government party - publishes articles actually threatening, by the way they are written, the very existence of matters upon which we are all agreed, alarm is created in the public mind lest a change of Government may mean the loss of the old-age pension. I shall be pleased to have from the Minister an assurance that this Bill is not a mere pretence - that the voting of a large sum of money, extending over a long period of time, is not a device to enable the Govern- ment to interfere in any way with oldage pensions. When I see the Government asking for three years’ appropriation, I am impelled to ask the reason. I am told that it will expedite matters. But we get through the business so rapidly in this chamber that there is not much reason for trying to make it go through more rapidly. Are the Government making preparation for a’ very long recess 1 Is it their intention to ‘ make the old-age pensions secure for such a considerable time that the needs of the pensioners will not necessitate calling Parliament together? Had not Senator Earle’s speech set me thinking, I should have been prepared to let the Bill go through without debate. But when he plumes himself on the fact that it is a guarantee given by the Government, the old saying, “ Beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts,” comes to my mind. If Senator Earle takes it as a guarantee that the Government are going to stand by the old-age pensioners, I am perfectly justified in asking the Minister in charge of the Bill to give us the official guarantee of the Government that they will not interfere in any way with old-age pensions for three years.
– Will you accept the assurance when it is given t
– Yes. I have never refused to accept a Ministerial assurance when given, but -the Minister has not given this one yet. I am asking for it because the Government are not to be, trusted. They were elected on the one plank - to -win the war.
– And you have been helping them to do it in the Sydney Domain.
– I have, and I am always proud to speak with my own class in the Sydney Domain, where free speech is allowed.
– I ask the honorable senator not to take notice of irrelevant interjections.
– Allow me to tell you, Mr. President, with all due respect, that whenever an interjection is made to me I will answer it. It mav be the duty of other people not to interject, but I am not going tq have interjections made that I am not to reply to.
– I do not ask the honorable senator not to reply to interjections. I simply ask him not to be led away by irrelevant ones.
– J. thank you, sir, for the very fine distinction. I shall not be led away. I should also like an assurance from the Government that there will not be an undue prolongation of the recess.
– You say the Government are not to be trusted, and now you want their assurance.
– The Government have certainly shown, during the four months that they have been “ winning the war,” that on the thing they were elected to Parliament to do they have absolutely failed to do anything; and iu that sense have lost the trust of reasonable men.
– Senator Earle naturally took the opportunity of having a “cut” at the party which at one time he had the honour to lead in Tasmania, but of which he is now a rather bitter opponent. I would remind the honorable senator that there was some misgiving in the minds of a large number of electors during the last election campaign.
– Created by the honorable senator and others.
– That is an absolute misstatement, so far as it applies to me.
– I withdraw it if I have your assurance. You are one who stands aloof from the others.
– If there was some misgiving created in the minds of electors as to the position in which the old-age pensioners might find themselves, should the National Government gain a majority, it was only reasonable, seeing that the electors read statements made by leading lights amongst the National candidates, not only during the campaign, but for several years prior to it, on that very subject.
– How many of them? About two.
– I refer specially to one shining light of the one-time Conservative party, lately the Liberal party, and now the National party - Sir William Irvine. Quite a number of other members, with whom Senator Earle is now associated, fought for many years against the establishment of Federal old-age pensions. Senator Earle knows perfectly well that he himself, from a hundred platforms in his own State, made statements similar to those which he says were made, namely, that the old-age pensions was the work of the Labour patty.
– Of the true Australian Labour party, which the honorable senator does not belong to.
– He is now associated with those who, at that time, were fighting the Australian Labour party, and though he may not designate the party on this side as the true Australian Labour party, that does not alter the fact that Senator Earle’s political, associates of to-day are those who were then fighting the Australian Labour party, and were opposed to the establishment of the Federal old-age pensions scheme. I would ask Senator Earle to carry his memory back a year or two, to the time when one of the M misters whom he. is now supporting” (Mr. Jensen), just on the eve of an election,. when it was too late efficiently to answer his charges, circulated the belief that the old-age pensions would be endangered if the Liberal party got a majority at the elections. Does not Senator Earle remember that incident? And yet to-day he is one of the most loyal supporters of the Ministry which includes that gentleman amongst its numbers. Possibly members of all parties at such a time make statements for party purposes, which, perhaps, they do not implicitly believe in. I repeat that if any anxiety existed in the minds* of a large number of electors that the old-age pensions system would not be absolutely safe if the National party came into power, that anxiety was engendered by the utterances of some of the leading lights of Liberalism as well as by statements in the National press during the last campaign. In some parts of Australia a few candidates probably did make such statements, but, speaking for myself, I did not, because, in spite of what some of the Liberal party have said, I do not believe that any party is courageous enough to face an election and intimate that, if successful, the oldage pensions system would be interfered with. With many of them I believe it is a question of letting “ ‘ I dare not ‘ wait upon ‘ I would.’ “ I believe there are some who would like to do this, especially when supported by influential newspaper backing, and when we remember the articles Chat were written during and since the election campaign, pointing out how the National Government, with a majority in both Houses, should practice economy, and how this economy could be effected by doing away with the maternity bonus and by cutting down the old-‘ age pensions, it is not unreasonable to expect anxiety in the minds of pensioners that the success of the National party would mean some interference with the pensions scheme. Statements of this kind were made very frequently. Like other honorable senators, I have no desire to delay the passing of this Bill, and certainly I should not have spoken but for the very palpable attempt made by Senator Earle to make political capital out of Senator McDougall’s utterances.
– Senator Gardiner having, as Senator Keating pointed out, declared that the Government is not to be trusted, and that any assurance is not worth the time taken to utter it, has pleaded pathetically for such an assurance from me with regard to old-age pensions. I am always anxious to meet Senator Gardiner’s wishes, and I do give him that assurance, not in the belief that he will accept or act upon it, but in the belief that other people whom he has been endeavouring to persuade into an opposite belief, will accept this assurance that the Government , will not interfere with the old-age pensions scheme. Then if Senator Gardiner is not prepared to accept my assurance or that of my colleagues, perhaps he will be inclined to regard more respectfully an assurance from one of his own colleagues . When the Bill was under consideration in another place and was being denounced as unnecessary, Sir John Forrest ventured the opinion that the money would be a guarantee that the pensions would be paid, and Mr. Higgs replied, “That is nonsense. You would pay it anyhow.” I am quite content to take Mr. Higgs’s assurance, and I hope Senator Gardiner will also accept that clear recognition by one of the leaders of his own party that nothing is further from the thoughts of the Government than to neglect to give effect to the existing law.
I wish now to say just a few words about the concern which is alleged to have prevailed in the minds of electors during the recent election as to the fate of the old-age pensions scheme. I believe there was at that time a very genuine concern in the minds of many people, but I also know how that concern was created.
– Primarily by the statements of Sir William Irvine.
– No. I will tell the honorable senator that he and his party will be absolutely bankrupt if ever Sir William Irvine leaves public life, and if I had not such a high opinion of that gentleman I would almost imagine that he had been subsidized by my honorable friends opposite to furnish them with political capital. That apprehension concerning the Old-age Pensions Act which existed in the minds of many people was the outcome of what I can only regard as one of the most cowardly political moves during the last election campaign.
– Ask Mr. Jensen about his pamphlet.
– The honorable senator refers to Mr. Jensen’s election statements. I am not aware that Senator O’Keefe has contradicted them. He stands here to-day in a miserable position. He has recently made the admission that he himself did not believe that this or any other party would destroy the Old-age Pensions Act. I challenge him to say that, during the general election, when his colleagues were saying that the old-age pensions were in danger, he ever ventured to contradict them.
– I challenge you to point to any of my colleagues in Tasmania who said so.
– The honorable senator’s whole party did it at the last election in my own State. One of the things continually dinned into the ears of the old people drawing the pension was that if they voted for the National party the pension would he destroyed.
– Whom did you hear say that?
– I heard so many make the statement that I could not detect the individuals. It was a common statement made in New South Wales.
We have heard references to official journals. If there is one official journal in Australia it is the newspaper known as the Worker - a paper which has not a body or soul to call its own, but which acts under orders. It distinctly pointed out that the old-age pension would be jeopardized if the National party were returned to office. That statement appeared in the official paper, official in the sense that it dared not print a line except under instructions to give effect to the policy preached by the spokesman of the party outside.
– It was in charge of Mr. Lamond at that time.
– No. What happened in another matter when Mr. Lamond sought to exercise the freedom which ought to belong to every honest man? He was kicked out. I contrast the action of that newspaper with the journal which Senator Gardiner has referred to, and called the official journal of the Liberal party.
– Surely you do not repudiate it?
– I neither repudiate nor acknowledge it. I am just putting facts before the Senate. When it suits the honorable senator he refers to that newspaper as the official journal of this party. If it should ever happen that I, as a party man, had any claim on ah official journal, I should expect it to give effect and support to the policy of the party. But it is quite clear in this matter that that journal was advocating something for which this party does not stand. The party is saying here, as it showed at the election, that it is not out to lay iconoclastic hands on the old-age pension.
– What party does the Bulletin support?
– Just now it is supporting my honorable friend’s party, but where its support will go to to-morrow the Lord only knows.
I, perhaps, have been drawn a little off the track by the discursive remarks of those who preceded me. I submit the measure for the consideration of the Senate.
– I rise to order. Forty minutes ago the Senate carried a motion that the second reading of this Bill be adjourned to a later hour. We are still in the same hour. Are we going hack on that resolution? I noticed carefully the wording of the motion. Senator Millen proposed the adjournment of this business “to a later period of the day,” but you, sir, deliberately - perhaps not intentionally - used the phrase “ to alater hour.” I want to know whether the Senate is in order in going back upon the resolution ?
– I am sure that the honorable senator does not desire me to give a serious ruling on a point of that sort. A “later hour of the day” is always equivalent to a later time of the day, and this is a later time of the day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appropriation of £10,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions).
– I wish to say a few words in reply to the statement of Senator Earle. I am sorry that he went out of his way to misconstrue the few remarks I made. What I put to the Minister was only a fair thing. I do not believe in a Bill appropriating £10,000,000 being put through without somebody saying a word. In my opinion, the Senate has never justified its existence ; and certainly if we go on passing Bills in a sausage-machine way, and without comment, as we are doing to-day, it will never justify its existence. I repudiate the assertion of Senator Earle that I am in any way interfering with, or delaying, the passage of this measure, or with the appropriation of this money. I asked one or two pertinent questions, and received a reply. I repudiate any assertion that either I, or. any member of my party, said that this Government, if elected, would lessen or do away with the old-age pension. I knew that they would never do it, that they would not dare to do it. I feel quite convinced that Senator Earle only rose to say something nasty - to assume something which I never said, which I never attempted to say, and which I never would say.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I anticipate that this measure will have the same happy despatch as the last one. In the Freight Arrangements Act, power was given in connexion with vessels owned by the Commonwealth to convey Australian produce, but obviously that provision only permitted the boats to carry cargo from Australia. It did not cover the contingency of the boats returning to Australia with cargo. Consequently, if the terms of the existing Act were to be complied with, the vessels would have to return to Australia in ballast, which, of course, is an undesirable thing to do. What is proposed in this measure, therefore, is to legalize the practice of these boats doing as boats run by commercial companies would do, and that is to make the best arrangements they can for carrying freight from point to point, whether in or out.
– Whether it is Australian freight or not?
– Yes. A boat which left here with a cargo of Australian wheat for England must either bring out British goods or come back in ballast.
– Suppose that she does not come to Australia, but goes to an intermediate port ?
– The same rule applies. Under the existing law it would be illegal for one of the vessels to charge for a freight to an intermediate port, because the Act does not empower the Government to make an arrangement of that kind.
– Will you give us any information as to where some of these ships are now)
– No; but I remind the honorable senator that he receives confidentially every month, if not more frequently, a list showing the disposition of these Commonwealth vessels.
– I have never received a list.
– This is the first time I have heard of the list.
– I am under a misapprehension there.
I think that honorable senators will see the common sense and necessity of this Bill unless it is intended that our vessels shall carry ballast, which is an unprofitable procedure at any time.
– That would prevent imports.
– We would import ballast, but would get no payment for the carriage of it.
– Will the Minister say whether the primary object of this fleet now is to earn a profit, or to carry Australian produce?
– The primary purpose of these vessels was to further Australian interests by handling Australian produce. But it follows that if a vessel! carrying Australian produce from here to an oversea port has to come back empty, it is going to cost twice as much to ship Australian produce as it would if she could earn a back freight. Unless my honorable friend means to say that there shall be no imports into Australia, that the vessels shall not bring back even corn sacks, it follows that he -is on the horns of this dilemma: He must ask that the outward produce shall bear the cost of a double voyage, or he must consent to the vessels earning something by bringing a freight back.
– Why is it that the vessels are bringing freight from America?
– Nobody knows better than does my honorable friend, with his keen commercial mind, that ,it is not always possible to arrange for freight for both trips between two given points, but it is frequently possible to do it by making a round trip.
– The boats need not go across the Atlantic for a cargo.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion is that the steamers should go somewhere else. Wherever they go, the passing of this Bill is necessary to enable them to charge freight. Whether they are going to the right point or not I do not know. But I assume that those who have the management of this concern are following sound business lines. ,
– And earning profits?
– If they are on the wrong track, I feel that we can rely upon my honorable friend’s patriotic instinct to come and put them right. But just at present, whether they are going on the right route or the wrong o’ne, it is necessary to pass this Bill in order to legalize the making of freight arrangements and the collection of the money. I ask the Senate, therefore^ to assent to the measure, leaving it to Senator Pratten to come along and show the Minister in charge of the ships where he can handle them to better advantage.
– I would not have risen to speak on this Bill but for the remarks of the Minister. I understand that the presentMinistry is very proud of the fact that these ships are earning very big profits. I question whether the first object with which they were purchased is being pursued. I question whether they are not now steaming about the wide waters of the whole world, seeking cargoes at a high price, and not coming to Australia as often as they should. Nobody, so far as I know, has had any information regarding their movements. We have been told that the profit on the purchase money is very large, and that very remunerative freight arrangements are being made. I heard the other day that one or two ships of the fleet had been chartered for bringing goods from New York. I cannot see why, if a ship leaves here with Australian produce for the Mother Country, a return cargo cannot be obtained from a nearer port than New York.
– What about the vessel being commandeered ?
– It may be that priority is being given to Australian produce, and that the ships are to the fullest extent carrying to the Mother Country the stuff which we so badly want to get away from Australia. But from several things I have heard, I am rather inclined to believe that priority of freight for Australian produce is being diverted, and that the primary object of the manager of this fleet is to make money. I submit that it is the duty of the Government to do everything possible to transport overseas the many products which we have accumulating here. To my own personal knowledge, owing to the scarcity of freight, the War Office will not order next season a good deal of the Australian produce which it ordered last season. I would urge upon the Government the wisdom of considering that the management of these steamers should be based on priority of carriage to Australian produce, and that they should not be sent from port to port all round the world in order to earn money out of the products of other countries. The Minister in charge of the Bill has not vouchsafed any information as to what these vessels are doing. I have heard statements made in several quarters to the. effect that they are primarily out for profit rather than for carrying Australian produce overseas.I maintain that they should be employed for the purpose for which they were purchased, and that next season the Government should consider whether some of these vessels ought not to be engaged to carry that freight without which the country cannot procure orders.
– To my mind, there is just one point which was overlooked by Senator Pratten. That point was put to him in a very fair manner by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen), who asked whether he desired these ships to return to Australia empty. If they are unableto get freight in the United Kingdom, why should they not go to New York for it? For all we know to the contrary, these vessels may have been used in transporting to the Continent of Europe the huge fleet of aeroplanes which arrived there only a few days ago. To me, this Bill does not appear to vest in the Director of Shipping sufficient powers. I would like the VicePresident of the Executive Council to make it quite clear that it is competent for that officer to engage in the carriage of general cargo as well as in the carriage of produce.
– I rise to congratulate the Government on the introduction of this Bill with a view to making a great socialistic experiment upon which they have embarked - the experiment of the Commonwealth becoming a ship-owner - an unqualified success. I hope that I shall yet see them in possession, not merely of cargo vessels, but of passenger ships. I know that the Commonwealth line of steamers has already carried other than Australian produce, and I believe that this measure is intended to validate that act. I congratulate the Government upon their socialistic experiment, and I hope that it will be extended still further.
.- Senator Grant has suggested that it would be better if the Minister made it clear that the Commonwealth line of steamers are authorized to carry general freight. I take it that this Bill will empower them to carry any kind of freight. To my mind, the word “ produce “ employed in the Bill is used in a very broad sense. But whilst I welcome the measure, I do not think that the remarks of Senator Pratten have received the amount of attention to which they are entitled. He has probably voiced the opinion that is held by a large number of persons in Australia - the opinion that, as far as possible, these , vessels ought to be used for the purpose of carrying Australian produce from our shores, and of bringing back from overseas the goods that we require here. ‘“Many persons feel strongly that these ships may be used for general freight-carrying purposes when they might be better employed in transporting produce from Australia.
– They could not be used for that purpose now.
– It would be well if the Minister could give us that assurance. I do not know whether, upon this Bill, he considers it within his province to supply information that so far has not been supplied to the Australian public - information as to the total earnings of these vessels, their total cost, and the amount of commission paid on -their purchase.
– All that information is given in the Budget-papers.-
– So far the matter has not been discussed here. This, however, may not be an opportune time for the Minister to impart general information in regard to these ships. The Australian public does not read the Budget-papers. It merely knows, in a general way, that a certain number of vessels were purchased for the Commonwealth by Mr. Hughes when he was the. Leader of the Labour party, and that they were probably purchased in opposition to the wishes of a number of persons who to-day are supporting him. However, I have no desire to make party capital out of that circumstance. The ships are here, and I believe . that their purchase has been justified. But it would be well if the public were informed of as many of the facts connected with their purchase as the Government deem it desirable it should know.
– In the handling of these vessels it would be well for the Government to put Australian interests first. I think that Senator Pratten, who recently returned from Great Britain, must have learned that the influence of the big shipping companies in England to-day is intensely powerful. The influence, of combines has been one of the dead hands of this war in many respects. In Australia the people will naturally see many things in a clearer light than they can be seen by the people of Great Britain. If, under this Bill, there be any intention to neglect Australia in the handling of our Commonwealth steamers, the Government will be well advised to view the entire business from an Australian stand-point. The war may continue for a considerable time, or it may end suddenly. For a long time I have been hopeful that it will end sud- ,denly. But “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” So far as business relationships between Britain and Australia are concerned, it would be well for the Ministry to hold up the Australian end of them. The interests of Britain are so essentially the interests of big concerns that she has scarcely looked outside of them. When these vessels were purchased, no more ships could have been bought in the Old Country, because the authorities there would not have released them. These facts being known to the Government, it would be well for them to see that Australian business interests are their first concern. If the British Government had despatched ships to Australia for the grain that we have here, there would not be the prospect of a food shortage in Britain that exists to-day. I repeat that it is the duty of the Government to press forward Australian interests in such a way that the people of the Old Country will know exactly what we desire. I trust that we shall put clearly before the British authorities the reason why these Australian ships should be engaged in Australian and British interests,- as viewed through Australian glasses. The fact that the very existence of our producers depends upon their being able to get their products to the markets of the world as expeditiously as possible should cause tha Government to recognise the necessity that exists for using these ships in Australian interests.
– It seems to me that, in a measure, we are losing sight of the fact that we may secure all that Senator Gardiner desires by sending Commonwealth vessels on round trips. To-day the building trade of Australia is almost stagnant because it is almost impossible to get supplies of iron from the Old Country. But ‘ it is possible to get them from America. Why, then, should not an Australian vessel carry Australian produce to England, sail thence to New York, and there take on board a cargo of any material necessary for our requirements, and bring it back to us?
– Motor cars?
– Not necessarily. There are many things . made in America that we require. We know why we cannot obtain them in England today. It is because many of the factories there are engaged in the manufacture of munitions. Take the case of galvanized iron, as an example. To-day its price is 400 per cent, higher than it was prior to the outbreak of the war. If that price were reduced to our own people, would it not be in the best interests of Australia ?
– But we cannot get it from America.
– At the present time we cannot obtain the sheet-iron to galvanize. But some honorable senators apparently think that it would pay better for our Commonwealth line of steamers to carry wheat to England and to return empty to Australia. For my own part, I believe that those persons who are charged with the management of these vessels are business men. We may be disposed to think that, because there are freight rings, they are always in operation, but honorable senators should bear in mind that the Commonwealth owns these vessels and has the right to direct where they shall trade. If by going to the United States they are able to secure for us goods which we could not otherwise obtain, they will be serving the best interests of Australia. This Bill may serve to enlarge the sphere of operations of our Commonwealth steam-ships, and so demonstrate, what was doubted to some extent at the time they were purchased, that the possession by Australia of her own steam-ships may be in the best interests of the Commonwealth, just as the possession by a State Government of State railways is in the best interests of the State.
– I point out that, even though the suggestion that these boats are being badly handled had substance in it, it would still not be an argument against the passage of this Bill. If these vessels go from Australia to Southampton, Liverpool, or London they must return in ballast, or with goods, and if they bring back goods we cannot legally carry on our accounts unless we bring the goods for nothing. If it be the desire of honorable senators that these ships should bring back goods, the obviously sound thing to do is to legalize the charging of freight on those goods, rather than to bring them back for nothing. With that explanation I can confidently rely upon the support of Senator Pratten for this measure.
– There would still be duty to pay on the goods.
– That is so, but the duty alone would not be as good as the duty plus freight. Though I do not know the gentleman who is intrusted with the management of these vessels I have confidence in his management. If his action be open to criticism, which I do. not admit, it is still necessary that we should pass this Bill to make legal the freight arrangements for carrying back cargo by these vessels. I trust that the measure will receive the general support of honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I do not think that any one objects to legally authorize the management of these Commonwealth steamships to charge freight. I see no objection to the Bill on that account, but I want to say that the country is not informed as to what is going on in connexion with these ships. We do not know whether they are being run as a purely commercial speculation, and to make aa big profits as can possibly be made in these abnormal shipping times, or whether the principle that is guiding their management is that o.f giving priority to the ‘ shipment of Australian produce. I wish to urge the Government to give that priority to the shipment of Australian produce. Naturally, a shipping manager desires to earn as big a profit as possible, and naturally, also, it is very pleasing to a Treasurer to be able to say in an annual statement that an expenditure of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 has resulted in so much profit. My purpose is only to direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) to the fact that the original object for which these ships were purchased was to take Australian products to the Mother Country, get back as quickly as possible, and take some more.
– Has the honorable senator any evidence that that is not being done?.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move-
That this Billbe now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is merely to remedy what may be regarded as a bookkeeping technicality. Under the Sugar Purchase Act, an arrangement was made between the Commonwealth Treasurer and the Commonwealth Bank by which the Bank should advance money for the purchase of sugar, and charge interest upon it ; but, at the same time, the Bank agreed to allow credit for any money which it held on Government account under other headings. Under the agreement, the Bank would charge interest only when the Commonwealth owed the Bank more than the Bank owed the Commonwealth. In essence, it is not proposed to disturb that arrangement, but it is proposed for the purpose of the book-keeping of the Bank, and also to meet Treasury audit requirements that, to the extent to which the sugar account is overdrawn, the full amount of interest shall be charged which may be properly debited to it. Having charged the account with that amount of interest, it is paid into the Treasury. This Bill does not in any way affect the arrangement, but is merely for the purpose of enabling the regulations of the Audit Act to be complied with. Every one knows that there are certain restrictions imposed with regard to the Consolidated Revenue Account, which, I suppose, it would not be possible to alter by anything short of a revolution. One is that when money goes into the Treasury, you can only get it out by an appropria tion. The arrangement that has been made, and which is a very simple and sound one, has been found open to the slight defect to which I have referred, and which will be remedied by the passing of this Bill. I do not know that I needsay any more about the measure than I have already said, except, perhaps, to add that the advantage to the Commonwealth due to the existence of the facilities provided by the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, is an advantage which certain honorable senators may justly congratulate themselves upon.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - “ 4. Interest, at the rate of £5 per centum per annum, shall be payable on the amount of the indebtedness of the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Bank under this Act, and such interest may be charged against the Common- wealth Treasurer Sugar Account.”
– I understand this is a measure to deal with a bookkeeping matter; but I notice that, under the proposed new section 4, interest at the, rate of 5 per cent, is to bo payable on the amount of the indebtedness of the Commonwealth to the Bank. I should like to discover whether the interest payable by the Commonwealth, and payable by the Bank, balance each other, that is to say, the interest payable to the Commonwealth on the undrawn account, and the interest payable by the Commonwealth on the overdrawn account.
[4.32]. - It is not a question of balance, because the Bank does not charge interest at all unless the Commonwealth owes the Bank more than the Bank owes the Commonwealth.
– It occurred to me that, on an overdrawn account, the Commonwealth might be charged interest at the rate of 6, 7, or 8 per cent., whilst it might receive only 5 per cent, on an unexpended credit.
– Let me put the matter in this way: Suppose the Commonwealth had to the credit of various accounts in the Commonwealth Bank a sum of £2,000,000. It might or- might not receive interest on that amount. The arrangements between the Bank and the Commonwealth in respect of these balances ‘are not affected by the arrangement with respect to the purchase of sugar. Whilst in the case I have suggested, the Commonwealth would have a credit in various accounts of £2,000,000, and the sugar account might be overdrawn by £1,000,000, in that case no interest would be charged by the Bank on the overdrawn sugar account. The 5 per cent, interest charge is made only in respect of the amount by which an overdraft on the sugar account exceeds the amount to the credit of the Commonwealth in the Bank under other headings. The Commonwealth Government do not pay interest on an overdrawn account, whilst at the same time it has credit to a greater amount in another account.
– I should not have spoken on this Bill had not the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) suggested the possibility of the Commonwealth sugar account being overdrawn to the extent of £1,000,000. I have always understood that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has financed the sugar business on behalf of the Commonwealth, and the only money paid by the Commonwealth Treasurer so far in this connexion has been paid in the shape of duty on sugar imported into Australia. As we shall probably produce more than sufficient sugar for Australian requirements this year, I do not see how it is at all likely that in connexion with this matter the Commonwealth Government will require to draw on any account to the extent of a single penny-piece.
– The last remarks made bv the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) have made me somewhat suspicious about this Bill. If the Commonwealth Bank is to lend £1,000,000 over the sugar deal-
– I do not desire that, the honorable senator should take that figure at all. -
– I know that it was used only for the purpose of illustration, and, if the honorable senator pleases, I will say £1,000, though in connexion with deals like this millions are neither here nor there. I understand that if in connexion with any Department of the Commonwealth there are surplus moneys in the Bank, the Bank is not allowed to charge interest on moneys advanced for the sugar deal. I am not at all interested in making the sugar deal any more profitable for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Last year a huge surplus was handed back to them.
– Nothing was handed back to them.
– A huge surplus over the estimate of the original deal was handed back. I shall be very pleased when I resume my seat- if Senator Crawford will explain away any misapprehension I am under ; but I think I am correct in saying that a huge amount was handed back to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company after the whole business was over.
– Only as an intermediary between the Government and the sugar producers.
– But the company got the benefit of it.
– Do you mean under the agreement to which you were a party!
– Yes; but the agreement, like many others, has not worked out in the way we anticipated. One can well be proud of having been a party to an agreement which could not - have been made but for the existence of a Labour Government in Queensland, and which has enabled the people of ‘the Commonwealth to have sugar at a reasonable price during the war.
– I am glad you say the price is reasonable.
– It is reasonable, particularly compared with what other countries are paying. I understand that the Commonwealth Bank advanced £10,000 to finance this deal, while another business account belonging to the Commonwealth showed a surplus. I gather that no interest will be . charged against the £10,000, in the circumstances. That should not be so. If the Bank is advancing money to this account, the account should stand by itself, and be charged interest. The fact that other Commonwealth accounts show a surplus is no reason why this particular deal should be let off the payment of a fair rate for money advanced. I agree with Senator Crawford that perhaps not a very large sum will have to be advanced; and if that is so, there is no reason why we should be legislating here on a matter that is not a business proposition. But, in any case, the sugar deal should stand by itself.
– So it does; but you do not want the Bank, which holds £10,000 of our money on one account, and lends us £10,000 on another, to charge us 5 per cent.?
– I do. Every advance should stand upon its own basis. It is not fair to let the sugar account off its fair rate of interest because other Government accounts show a surplus. After all, the Bank profits are stillthe property of the same people.
– Each account stands on its own basis. The honorable senator has not caught my meaning.
– I think I have. If the Bank advances us £10,000 to finance the sugar business, and, at the time of advancing that money, it has other Government moneys in its possession to the extent of £10,000, the Bank will get no interest for the money it advances for the sugar account.
– That is so.
– Then I have caught the honorable senator’s meaning.
– In the case the honorable senator mentions, the Bank charges interest on the sugar account, but pays it into the Commonwealth Treasury.
– Are the Governor of the Bank and the Bank officials favorable to this Bill ? If not, we should not interfere with the arrangements of a banking concern that should be allowed to conduct its own business in its own way. If the accounts are mixed up, it will be impossible to say exactly where money has been earned or liabilities have accrued, and the big company will get the lion’s share of the deal, as they always do.
– Do you think the Governor of the Bank would allow anything unfair to be foisted on him ?
– I do not know. I am asking the Minister if the Bill is introduced with the approval, or at the request, of the Governor of the Bank.
– The Bank has nothing to do with the Bill.
– It will seriously interfere with their method of conducting accounts, which the Governor of the Bank was appointed to do on strictly businesslike lines. If the Bill becomes law, he cannot do anything outside its four corners.
– It is only legalizing what he is already doing.
– With that assurance, I am prepared to sit down; but if money is to be advanced free of interest in a business deal, in which one of the wealthiest and most influential companies in the Commonwealth is concerned, simply because moneys are lying to the credit of other Government accounts in the Commonwealth Bank, it appears to me, although I do not pretend to be a financier, that the company is getting the better of the deal.
– Senator Gardiner is under some misapprehension,possibly because of the way I stated the facts. I altogether demur to his contention that the accounts should stand separate. Hundredsof business men have two accounts at the Bank, one in credit and the other overdrawn. It is only fair for one to be taken as a set-off against the other. No business man would agree to the Bank charging him interest on the amount he borrows on one account, while letting the Bank have his surplus in the other account for nothing. The practice set out in the Bill is common throughout the commercial community here, and in other countries. It is the only sound business proposition possible. Senator Gardiner would be the first to demur, if he was good enough to lend me a pound, conditionally on my paying interest on it–
– It is against my religion to lend money.
– And it is against mine to borrow - at interest.
Senator Gardiner’s next point is that, somehow or other, we are undermining the power of the Governor of the Bank. We are doing nothing of the kind. The very practice which the Governor of the Bank has found necessary to introduce is being legalized by the Bill. It could not have been carried through without his approval, because he has control of the method in which his accounts are kept.
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is nob concerned in this matter. Not a single penny of the interest goes into the coffers of the company. It goes to the credit of the Treasury. The Governor of the Bank is charging interest on any amount overdrawn on the sugar account, quite irrespective of how much the Commonwealth Government may have to credit in other accounts. But when he has collected the interest, he says to the Government, “ Because you have a credit on other accounts, I hand this money over to you.” This Bill legalizes the payment of that money into the Treasury.
– You have made it much more clear.
– Sugar has always been a mystery to me, and I am glad if I have succeeded in clearing up one point connected with it.
.- Sugar is not altogether a mystery to me, although I do not profess to know everything about it; but I have been in the business twenty-five years, and have had special opportunities of acquiring a general knowledge of every department connected with the production and distribution of sugar in Australia. Senator Gardiner is quite mistaken in saying that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was allowed a larger profit last year than was provided in the terms of its agreement with the Commonwealth Government. As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth did not hand any money over to the company, but since the company has been managing the business on behalf of the Commonwealth, it has returned to the Commonwealth over £1,000,000. Part of that was used to pay the import duty on foreign sugar, and the balance, about £500,000, was paid into the Consolidated Revenue. The Commonwealth has made over £500,000 out of the Queensland producers of sugar. The Bill provides for the very thing which Senator Gardiner is contending for, because proposed new section 4 directs the Government to pay interest at 5 per cent, on its indebtedness to the Commonwealth Bank, and charge it against the sugar account.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section 4 of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 4a. When the amount of the indebtedness of the Commonwealth to the Commonwealth Bank under this Act is less than the total amount standing in the Commonwealth Bank to the credit of the Commonwealth public account, and the Commonwealth departmental accounts, the interest charged in accordance with the next preceding section shall be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”
. -Will the Minister explain this clause?
– The clause really expresses the whole purpose of the Bill. Does the honorable senator want an explanation of the meaning of “ Commonwealth public account “ and “ Commonwealth departmental accounts?”
– Yes. Are those general accounts, which have nothing to do with sugar ?
– That is so. They are the general working accounts of the several public activities.There must be, on the aggregate, some scores of them, because nearly every Department, and many sub-Departments, have their own banking accounts.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales-
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [4.52].- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to improve the position of those invalid and oldage pensioners who, on account of their dependence on members of the Australian Imperial Force, are in receipt of military allotments or war pensions. As the law stands at present, the amount of the invalid and old-age pension may be reduced if the applicant is in receipt of a military allotment or war pension, and under this Bill it is proposed that an applicant shall be entitled to the amount of both pensions without deduction. As regards an invalid, the fact that an applicant is adequately supported by his children will not interfere with the allowance. I feel certain that the provisions of this measure will insure for it sympathetic support from members on both sides of the Senate. The circumstances rendering it desirable to bring in an amendment of the existing law are clearly known. We are all more or less familiar with cases of hardship due to the reduction of invalid and old-age pension payments because an applicant is in receipt of a war pension or military allotment, and it is in order to correct this disability that the Government have ventured to present the measure.
– I welcome the Bill because I have had brought under my own observation cases of hardship caused by the circumstances mentioned by the Minister, persons entitled to the old-age or invalid pension having had reductions made, owing to the receipt by them of war pensions for the death of sons at the Front. The Bill has not been introduced one day too soon.
– I also welcome the Bill, and congratulate the Government for meting out tardy justice to people who have suffered by a reduction of payments under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I only regret that the Bill has not been made retrospective. I understand that it will operate only from the day it passes, and I would be more pleased if the Government could see their way clear to recoup the losses sustained by many people owing to the reduction of old-age pensions. I desire to say also that I noticed, in tha debate on this measure in another place, that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) claimed credit to himself for having suggested the introduction of this amending Bill. I do not care who gets credit for it, so long as an injustice is being remedied, but I do object to an honorable gentleman of another place trying to enshrine himself in the memories of the public in the way I have indicated. I have looted through Hansard records, and I find that the honorable member for Perth only mentioned this injustice in March of this year, and I point out that when the War Pensions Bill was being read a second time in this Chamber I was the first to raise the very point which is now being dealt with in this Bill. Ever since the War Pensions Bill was introduced I have protested against any reduction being made in the invalid and .oldage pensions, and I remember that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) said that if any injustice was done the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act would have to be amended. In season and out of .season I have endeavoured to have this matter remedied. I am glad to know that at last the Government have introduced the Bill, and I hope that people who have suffered losses through the reduction of invalid and old-age payments will be recouped.
. Mr. President-
– Are you going to claim credit for the measure?
– Well, I think I am as much entitled as the honorable senator who has just sat down to claim credit for it.
– I am not claiming anything.
– I understood the honorable senator was claiming that he had advocated this reform in the press and on the public platform, and all I want to say is that in every election I have gone through I have been accused, and my party has been accused, of a determination, if returned to power, to curtail the old-age pensions . payments, or stop them altogether, and I think this Bill is a fitting reply to such an accusation. I hope also that we shall never hear such charges repeated, because they have been most disconcerting in the past, as, generally speaking, they have been made two or three days prior to an election, so that we have not had an opportunity to reply to them. I hope this Bill will settle that libel for ever.
.-I congratulate the Government on. having introduced the Bill because, like other honorable senators, I appreciate the grievances that have arisen owing to a reduction in the payments of war pensions on account of invalid and old-age pensions. This measure demonstrates the - necessity ‘ for a National Government in Australia, because the war has been in progress now for over three years, and although complaints were continually arising, no action was taken by the late Government.
– How could they take any action ? There was nothing to take action on.
– The people must congratulate themselves on having returned to power a Government prepared to deal with these grievances.
– I would like an assurance from the Leader of- the so-called National Government that they will cease to collect from widows and others moneys which it is alleged have been overpaid on separation allowances because the applicants have been in receipt of old-age pensions. A considerable number of such cases have come under my notice, and I would like to know now if the Government are going to do the right thing. The purport of the Bill, I take it, is to provide that those who are in receipt of war pensions will not have payments under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act reduced, but I would like the Minister to give us an assurance that persons who have had their pensions, so reduced will receive the back money due to them.
.- I indorse all that has been said by honorable senators in appreciation of the Bill, because we have all had some experience of cases of hardship due to the fact that persons drawing the old-age pensions have been deprived of their right to separation allowances or war pensions through the loss of any member of their family. This Bill will ‘ remove all such cases of hardship, and in future persons bereaved in consequence of the war will not be penalized by the loss of any pension which they may have merited by life-long service to the State. However, I rise to intimate that _ desire to submit an amendment of the Bill. In consequence of the splendid progress made by the Senate in dealing with measures, and the unanimity with which honorable senators have suspended the Standing and Sessional Orders to allow this Bill to be passed through all its stages without delay, it becomes necessary for me, in order that I may introduce my amendment, to ask permission of the Senate immediately the second reading is» carried. I desire to have the Bill amended so as to provide that pensioners incapacitated through blindness may be permitted to earn, by their personal exertion, a greater sum of money than 22s. 6d. per week before their pension ceases. This case particularly appeals to me.
– The honorable senator, at this stage, can only intimate what he proposes to do. He cannot argue the question.
– I did not think that I could, sir. I only want to inform the Senate that immediately the second reading of the Bill is carried I shall move the contingent motion which I gave notice of at the beginning of the session. I trust that the Senate will give me an opportunity of very materially improving this Bill, and doing a considerable justice to another unfortunate section of the community.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I rise to move -
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the whole on the Bill that they have leave to consider an amendment to section 24 of the principal Act.
– I want to point out to Senator Earle and the Senate that he is not entitled to move this motion except on notice under standing order 15, which notice has to be given at a previous sitting. The Standing Orders having been suspended to permit of the passage of the Bill through all its stages to-day ; that, of course, has nullified his notice of motion. Therefore, he can only proceed by leave, and, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, I think that leave ought to be given. Is it the pleasure of the Senate that Senator Earle have leave to submit his motion without the usual notice?
Honorable Senators. - Aye.
– Leave granted.
– Then I move accordingly, sir.
– I feel under some disability in asking the Senate not to assent to the motion. Naturally any effort put forward on behalf of an afflicted section of* the community is bound to appeal to the sympathies of all men and women. But I should like to ‘ point out to honorable senators that the very action taken by Senator Earle discloses that his amendment aims at something other than the purpose for which the amending Bill was brought in. He has selected an unfortunate class of persons, who certainly appeal to us, and that is the blind. But if it is a desirable way to amend the invalid pensions system by picking out one section at a time, honorable senators will see that we could run through the whole category, bringing in the blind pases to-day, the tubercular cases to-morrow, and those troubled with- paralysis the next day. As regards every one of these cases, every honorable senator would shrink from giving a negative vote if taken in detail. I want honorable senators to consider not merely the claims which the blind have on their good feelings.
– I am very sorry to interrupt the honorable senator, sir, but I desire to know whether he is in order. I could not discuss the merits of the amendment, which I intend to move when submitting this motion, and I ask whether the honorable senator is in order in discussing the merits of my proposal if given permission by the Senate to submit it to the Committee ?
– The point of order raised by Senator Earle is somewhat important. It is quite true that I ruled him out of order in discussing the merits of his proposed amendment.
– Not when he moved his motion for an instruction to the Committee.
– Oh, yes. I ruled that the honorable senator was not in order in arguing the merits of his proposed amendment; that he could only do that after receiving the permission of the Senate. Otherwise any honorable senator could evade the standing order providing that the subject-matter of his speech must be relevant to the Bill by saying that he proposed to move an amendment which was not relevant. Senator Millen is perfectly in order in pointing out as a reason why an instruction should not be given to the Committee, that the case of theblind would be practically on all-fours with the other cases he cited. But he is not in order in arguing the merits of the particular proposal which Senator Earle has thought fit to present to the Senate. The same restriction applies to a Minister as applies to any member of the Senate. Therefore, while I rule that Senator Millen is perfectly in order in saying that there is no more reason whythe case of the blind should be brought under consideration than the other cases he cited, he is not in order in arguing the merits of the question. I suggest to Senators Earle and Millen that the proper time, if the merits of the question are to be argued, is when in Committee on the Bill.
– I certainly was under the impression that when you checked Senator Earle he was speaking to the second reading. You pointed out that, whilst be might indicate the nature of his proposed amendment, it was not competent for him at that stage to discuss it. When he submitted the motion for an instruction he did so without attempting to address you. However, I propose to act upon the suggestion which you have given. Whatever may be the rights of an honorable senator at this juncture, it is quite clear that his right to discuss the proposal ad infinitum in Committee is unquestioned. As I do not wish to go over the ground twice, sir, I shall refrain from speaking further at this stage.
– I rise, sir, to discuss the question on the lines on which Senator Millen was discussing it, so that we may get a clear ruling from the Chair, because I think that your suggestion, if followed by the Senate, would lead to endless complications. When you ruled Senator Earle out of order he was merely asking permission to have the matter’ brought before the Senate, and now that it is submitted under cover of a motion I think you will see that the whole matter is open to debate. It was to bring that aspect under your notice that I rose. I claim that the motion which will convey an instruction to the Committee is open to full debate.
-How can the Senate know whether to give that instruction or not unless it discusses the matter?
– Exactly. With all due respect to you, sir, I think that you hastily confounded the ruling you gave at a previous stage with the fact that since Senator Earle got permission to proceed he has submitted a motion for an instruction. I believe, sir, that on further consideration you will see that we are now at liberty to discuss the matter. I do not wish to speak at any length, but I do not like a suggestion or a ruling to be thrown out’ which may be used against us on a more important matter. I propose to debate this matter if Senator Millen does not desire to continue his speech.
– I did not prevent Senator Millen or any other honorable senator from pointing out reasons why this desired instruction should not be given to the Committee.
– I wish to say a few words in favour of the motion. I recognise that a great difficulty confronts supporters of a Government in having to vote against any matters which do not happen to be parti of the Government policy.
– I took no exception to this matter coming on. One protest would have stopped Senator Earle from submitting the motion.
– I am not speaking disparagingly of the Government but pointing out the difficulty of the situation. I recognise that, in all cases where a Government, or any one else, is attempting to grant concessions, or extend privileges to any class in the community, it is a very easy thing for an honorable senator ‘tt> get up “ to go one better,” and that those who vote against his proposal are continually put in a position in which I think they should not be put; but I see no means of avoiding the situation. I believe that Senator Earle is quite in earnest in this matter. The purport of his proposition, I take it, is that a blind pensioner may be allowed to earn more money, and still receive the pension. In my opinion, we should scarcely put a limit to what pensioners may earn. I see no sense or reason in restricting the earnings of a pensioner of any kind.
– The honorable senator is now going outside even this particular amendment.
– I do not want to do that, sir. I wish to keep within the lines of the amendment, which reads as follows: -
Sub-section 1 of section 24 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1916 is amended by adding at the end thereof the words “ except in the case of a pensioner invalided through blindness; in such case, the pensioner’s income from personal exertion and pension may amount to, but not exceed, £104 per annum.”
I was going to point out that the system of limiting the earnings of pensioners is a mistake, because if a man is earning more money, he is doing more work. If a pensioner is prevented from earning money now, and he were allowed to earn money in the future, he might soon find himself able to relieve the Government of the obligation to give him a pension. I venture to say that very many of them, as soon as they became certain that they could support themselves by their own efforts, would no longer remain a burden on the State. The proposal of Senator Earle is such a fair one that I cannot think of curtailing the opportunity to vote upon it. A little while ago, when it was proposed to grant a pension of only 5s. weekly in Great Britain, many keen business men there pointed out that the adoption of such’ a proposal would absolutely- ruin the country. They saw nothing but disaster in it. Yet to-day Britain is spending upon the war, in a day, as much as would suffice to pay of3age pensions for a year.
– Does the honorable senator mean that she should drop the war and pay pensions 1
– Nothing of the kind. But just as difficulties were predicted in Great Britain, when the question of pensions was under consideration, so many honorable senators foresee difficulties here. Personally, I see no difficulties. Senator Earle’s proposal will merely permit of. an. increase in the amount, which a blind pensioner is permitted to earn. Blindness is a sad affliction, but it is a greater hardship that blind pensioners should be allowed to earn only so much a year if they are to retain their pensions. A similar disability in the case of other pensioners would be a very serious one, and I am strongly of the opinion that we ought to treat all persons coming within this category in accordance with the increasing common sense of the community. I shall support the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Amendment of section 4).
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Bill whether there is any possibility of those persons in Australia who were entitled to an old-age pension, and who received it, subject to deductions because they were in receipt of a war pension, being recouped the amounts thus deducted? Surely this National Government must recognise that justice should be meted out to all those who have suffered between the passing of the War Pensions Act and the present time.
.- Earlier in the day Senator Grant put a question to what he described as “the so-called National Government.’’ As I did not. feel authorized to speak for any such institution, I did not reply to his inquiry, but now that Senator Needham has asked a question of the “ National Government,” I am prepared to give him an answer. It is not intended to make this Bill retrospective. The Government do not feel called upon to make good any omissions on the part of previous Governments. We think that we are taking a reasonable step forward when we remedy what we recognise as a wrong. The Bill will afford considerable relief to those who will be affected by its provisions.
– In view of the fact that, when the War Pensions Bill was under consideration, the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) assured us that if any relief in the direction I have suggested was found to be necessary, it would be conferred by means of an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, I ask him to afford that relief now.
– Ask Senator Gardiner. He was Assistant Minister for Defence at the time.
– I do not take my directions from Senator Guthrie. Will the Minister for Defence suggest to his colleague the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) some machinery by means of which persons who have been deprived of the difference between their war pensions and their oldage pensions can be recouped their losses ? I recognise that the Bill cannot be made retrospective, but surely some means can be devised to overcome the difficulty which I have outlined. I do not think that the number of persons who have suffered is very large, nor that the amount involved is very great. Perhaps the Minister for Defence can suggest a way out of the difficulty without making the Bill retrospective.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added : - “ 5. Sub-section 1 of section 24 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1916 is amended by adding at the end thereof the words ‘ except in the case of a pensioner invalided through blindness; in such case the pensioner’s income from personal exertion and pension may amount to, but not exceed, £104 per annum.’”
I realize the justice of’ a great deal that has been said this afternoon in regard to the granting of national pensions to all invalids and persons who have reached the pension age. But I also recognise that it would be very difficult indeed to convince a majority of the members of this Parliament that such a proposition is a practicable one at present. I quite look forward to the period when it will be adopted, and when we shall not insist upon persons remaining poor in order that they may receive such a reward for services rendered to their country. Hence, in framing the proposed new clause I have chosen to deal with a specific class of cases in which no doubt can exist as to the incapacity or disablement of the pensioner. When a man loses his sight we know that he is invalided beyond any chance of recovery. There can be no suspicion that he is malingering in order to qualify for the pension. The average blind person who has taken advantage of one of the blind institutes of Australia has a considerable love of life. He is able, through training, to enjoy life to an extent which those who have their sight can scarcely imagine. I have attended entertainments, and concerts of these people, and it is quite remarkable to notice, not only their expert knowledge and capacity in connexion with industries such as brushmaking, matmaking, basketmaking, and so on, but also the keen interest which they are able to take, in common with those who have their sight, in many social enjoyments. Other invalids do not require the same amount of money for ordinary expenditure as do the blind.
– What about those who have lost their hearing?
– We cannot say that a man who has lost his hearing is invalided.
– He cannot get a job.
– Yes, he can. The loss of hearing, of course, is a serious affliction, but we know that one man who is hard of hearing is Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to-day. There are many ways in which a man who suffers from loss of hearing may earn his living as well as a man who is possessed of all his faculties. The blind are in a different category altogether, because whilst they are absolutely incapacitated from earning a living in the ordinary way, they are not incapacitated from the enjoyment of many social advantages. As a consequence, they require money for many purposes other than their actual need to live. Yet under the Act they are restricted from earning more than 22s. Gd. per week.
– One of them was Vice-President of the Executive Council in a Commonwealth Government.
– There are’ very few in Australia who can hope to attain the position which was held by the late Senator McGregor. When the blind earn by brushmaking, matmaking, or other industries up to 22s. 6d. per week their pension immediately ceases. I am not asking the Committee to call upon the Government to incur Shy extra expenditure. I know it is not the function of the Senate to do so. But I think we have a right to request the Government to permit the blind to be more productive and to earn more for themselves without being penalized by the loss of their pensions if they do so. I admit that what has been said of other pensioners is quite sound, but in the circumstances I cannot ask that they be included in my amendment. Any law or custom which restricts the productivity of the people is injurious to the Commonwealth. When, therefore, I ask that blind pensioners shall be permitted f-o produce more, and thus add to the wealth of the Commonwealth, it will be admitted that “ I am making a very reasonable request.
– Especially in view of the high cost of living, owing to the advent of the National Government.
– I am sure that Senator Grant will be able to obtain a scrubbing brush more cheaply if the blind are permitted to produce as much- as their capacity will allow without being penalized by the loss of their pensions. What I propose is merely an act of justice to blind pensioners and would involve no financial strain upon the Government. Whilst it would do no injury to any one, it would confer a very great benefit indeed on a large number of very unfortunate citizens.
– Although the Federal Parliament has nol established a system of pensions for permanent public ‘ servants, it has been the practice in the various States to provide public servants who have reached the retiring age with substantial pensions amounting in many cases to very much more than £104 a year.
– What States? They have not done so.
– I say that’ they have, and the fact lends weight to the arguments submitted by Senator Earle in support of his proposal that blind pensioners should be allowed to earn more than the amount stipulated in the original Act. I have always been at a - loss to know why any restrictions of this character should . have found their way into the Act. The Old-age Pensions Acts were passed, not only in the Commonwealth Parliament, but also in the various State Parliaments, owing to the persistent agitation of the Labour party, to whom the entire credit for this kind of legislation is due. They were passed in the teeth of the strongest opposition from the other side. Though the party opposite and their predecessors held the reins of office in Australia and elsewhere for centuries, it never occurred to them to pass an old-age pensions law until the Labour party, by the pressure they were able to bring to bear upon the various Parliaments, compelled them to consent to this tardy measure of justice to the ordinary worker.
– Is this an argument for or against the new clause 1
– It was always theright thing for civil servants on reaching the retiring age-
– I do not wish to unduly restrict the honorable senator, but he is getting wide of the proposed new clause, and is discussing old-age pensions legislation generally.
– I should very much like to see Senator Earle’s proposal extended to persons other than the blind who are incapacitated from earning their living in* modern competitive ways, and who thus, through no fault of their own, have to rely upon an invalid or old-age pension. ,1 know that the National Government and their supporters are not prepared to go that far, though one of their number has on this occasion stepped a little in advance of his colleagues, and proposes to do something in this direction. I shall support the proposed new clause.
– I was very much struck with the remark made by Senator Gardiner some little time since, when he said that in. submitting amendments of this kind it is always possible for some one else to go one better, and that those opposed to the additional benefit suggested are liable to have their actions misjudged. That is an absolutely fair statement of the case. There is always in political circles a temptation to this kind of thing; and it is always possible that persons who feel unable to follow the lead set them by a more venturesome soul are liable to be misjudged; That is the position with which we are confrontedto-day. I can suggest now to honorable senators that if they desired they might out-Herod Senator Earle altogether by covering the whole ground in an amendment, and leaving our honorable friends opposite trembling and paralyzed by the glorious outlook that would be opened up if such a course were adopted; but honorable senators know exactly what that would mean, and that such an amendment would never get through. I have not one word to say against what Senator Earle has urged as to the position of the blind ; but I could say just as much for others of the afflicted in the community. The honorable senator has shown that in some respects the blind can enjoy life, and are better circumstanced than are many other invalids. He has shown that the blind can take an active interest in what is going on around them.
– For which they require money.
– I take the position of the paralytic. He is dragging a leg, or dangling an arm, and shrinks from association with his fellow men because of his affliction. There is not much enjoyment of life for him. If we take tuberculous invalids, we know that some of them find a difficulty in getting a home to receive them, because of the nature of their disease. If they have knowledge of its nature, as most of them have, and have a regard for those with whom they associate, they shrink from their fellows rather than be the means of spreading their disease amongst those for whom they have some regard. If any invalids are entitled to have consideration extended to them, certainly tuberculous cases should be considered.
– What about leprosy?
– There are many other cases. Take the case of unfortunates suffering from cancer. Is no one here capable of putting forward on their behalf quite as strong a case as Senator Earle has made out for the blind ? Take the relatively large number of people malformed from infancy and doomed largely to rely on the good offices of their neighbours and friends. For each of those cases I could say all, and more than, Senator Earle has said for the blind. Therefore, when I oppose the amendment it is not for want of sympathy with the blind, but because I take the view that if we are prepared to give money out of the public exchequer for these pensions we should not confine it to one class, but spread it evenly over all classes. Instead of making an exception in favour of the blind, my attitude would be to secure, if thought desirable, a general amendment affecting all these classes, not necessarily going as far as Senator Earle has suggested, but having all the appearance of equity in the sense that it will treat all these unfortunates on an equal basis. I am unable to agree with Senator Earle’s proposal, because it selects only one class. I mustask honorable senators to consider the position of all those other equally deserving sections for whom the honorable senator proposes to do nothing. If we are to consider the prospect of a larger grant from the public Treasury, it should be given by way of an average increase to all pensioners equally distressed. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment for the reasons that Ihave given, and not for want of sympathy with it, leaving the question of invalid pensions until they can be reviewed as a whole, and not dealt with in this piece-meal fashion.
– It always appears to me, when a member, particularly a follower of the Government, introduces an amendment of this kind, that he is not playing the game, but is scoring off his mates. He is posing as a man who would be more generous than those who put their loyalty to the party and the Government before their personal sympathy and considerations.
– You can counter that by voting with me.
– I could, but I am not going to. Whenever a member on the Government side puts me in the position in which Senator Earle has put me to-day, I am not going to be saddled with the responsibility of explaining for the rest of my political life why I voted against the interests of the blind, even if I was inclined to do so, which I am not. But I see in Senator Millen’s argument a really good reason for carrying the amendment, because Senator Millen has shown that there are even more deserving oases. If this Committee, with its narrow powers - because in this case we can deal only with the matter referred to us by the Senate - carries the amendment, it will be a direction to the Government to bring in a more general Bill, with a larger scope. I shall, therefore, support the amendment, although I do not approve of the conduct of the mover in “scoring off his mates.”
– That is not so.
– It is an absolute fact, and every member of his party who puts his loyalty to his party and the Government before his personal sympathies and interests will find himself in a difficulty for the rest of his political life.
– That is it !
– Then that will account for Senator Barker’s vote.
– It will.
– Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to ask Senator Guthrie, at a public meeting at the next election, why he voted against Senator Earle’s amendment, assuming that he has the courage to do so to-day. I disapprove of the manner in which the amendment has been brought forward. When it is a case of appealing to the feelings of large sections of the community the game of putting one against the other can go on to an unlimited extent.
– I assure the honorable senator that I will always please myself.
– I want to see the honorable senator always adopting his real attitude, but I do not congratulate him on his present position. I shall vote for the amendment because I believe that the blind should be given an increased pension, but if I belonged to the Ministerial party I would vote against it, out of loyalty to my party. I do not belong to that party.
– But you did.
– I was never a follower of Senator Millen, although some years ago we were in the same party for a little while. The principle of the amendment might well be extended to a number of other unfortunate classes, and I shall vote forit, in the hope that the Government, seeing a majority on their own side voting with this side to give the deserving blind the right to earn more money, will recognise that it is their duty to give every other section the right to earn more. I object to picking out one narrow section for an advantage, but if Senator Earle had widened the scope of his amendment the Committee would have been in a position to extend the benefits to all classes.
– I do not think that you ought to find fault with Senator Earle, seeing that you were in. power for three years with the opportunity of doing what you say, and he has been here only about three weeks.
– I am prepared to take the full responsibility for the things we did not do during the whole period that I was a Minister. I did my best in a difficult time. It may have been a very poor best, but it was my best. In many cases, when things that I disagreed with became party and Government matters, I was one of the party, and one of the Government always.
SenatorGuthrie. - With one exception.
– Without any exception at any time.
– Senator Milieu’s interjection is one I frequently get from him regarding the things we did not do during two years as a Government while conducting Australia’s share of the war in the stages when everything was new.
– Order !
– I hope these interjections will be less frequent, because, while they are permitted without being called to order, I will insist on my right, to reply to them. If that right is denied to me other steps can be taken. The blind should be given the right to earn, not only £2 per week, but more. If the amendment was made wide enough to give the same right to all other sections I would vote for it, but in voting for it I can still disapprove of the manner in which it has been brought forward by an honorable senator who is scoring off his mates.
.- The great difficulty in distinguishing between different pensioners is to know when a man is absolutely incapacitated.
It must be only in very exceptional cases that persons incapacitated by cancer, leprosy, paralysis, or the other afflictions mentioned are able to earn by personal exertion any amount which would interfere materially with the pensions they receive.
– You can see plenty of men paralyzed only in one arm, or in the feet, selling papers, and so on, in the streets.
– There may be some, but, in the case of the blind, we know beyond all doubt that the pensioner is absolutely incapacitated, and is entitled to a pension. He cannot malinger, he cannot deceive the Pensions Commissioner, and all we ask is that persons of that class shall be permitted, if they can be so trained, to earn the small amount of £2 per week. As regards Senator Gardiner’s objection to my action, I consulted no one as to the introduction of the new clause. We have no party hacks on this side of the chamber.
– Yes, you have.
– We have not. So far as concerns Government measures necessary to enable Australia to play her small part in the war, the members of the National party are behind the Government; but on other questions every member is absolutely free to carry out the promises and pledges he gave his constituents.
– You have your Caucus, and you are bound by it.
– The honorable senator is quitewrong. Long custom and association have made honorable senators opposite incapable of realizing that other men are free. I am sorry my action has caused Senator Gardiner displeasure, but I cannot help it. If any other member of the National party thinks fit to introduce an amendment of the law, I will vote for or against it, and take the responsibility of doing so. If it places me in an awkward position with my constituents, that is my look out. The only objection to my proposal seems to be that it particularizes theblind as against other pensioners. My answer is that we are dealing with a special class of invalidity thatcan be benefited, not by extra expenditure on their behalf,but by giving them the opportunity to produce for themselves. We know that they cannot impose upon the State or the Department, and are absolutely entitled to their pensions. If such persons were trained to some calling, they could improve their own positions, and at the same time benefit the State. When the time comes to include other pensioners I shall be found voting for such a proposal; but let us not refuse to do what I am now asking because we cannot benefit all pensioners.
– How much will your proposal cost?
– Nothing, because it is not proposed to increase the number of pensioners. It is only proposed to enable those receiving a pension to earn more.
– No. It must widen the area of the pensions, because at present there are persons with incomes in excess of the amount provided and they are not receiving pensions in consequence.
– Not from personal exertion. Some blind men are receiving rents from money invested in property, but they are the wealthy blind, and will not come under this clause. The only persons affected by it will be those who are earning money by their own personal exertion. Surely the thing is reasonable.
– Why stop at £104 ? .
– I realize that some maximum must be fixed, and in reply to Senator de Largie, I might ask him why have we already insisted upon all pensioners receiving not over £52 a year. Under the present Act they may have a home to live in, but, exclusive of that, their income must not exceed £52 a year. I hope to have the unanimous approval of honorable senators by fixing the amount at the moderate sum of £2 per week.
– I intend to support the proposed new clause.
– Of course you will ; there is no doubt about that.
- Senator Earle, in the course of his remarks, said that there were no party hacks on his side of the Senate, but I point out that Senator de Largie and Senator Earle would not be in their present positions unless they were party hacks. Senator Earle would not have been here except for the fact that he is a party hack.
– What about you?
– I admit I am a member of a party. I have never denied it. Senator Shannon himselfwould not have been in the chair unless Senator Earle had voted for him. It is well known that the Ministerial party met and selected candidates for the position of President and Chairman of Committees. I intend to vote for the proposed new clause, but I think the provision might be extended in many other directions.
– We all agree on that.
– Then let us get the thin edge of the wedge in.
– At the proper time.
– I have heard those words before, but so far as honorable gentlemen opposite are concerned, the proper time never comes. Senator Millen referred to invalids malformed or paralyzed. In one sense they do suffer more than the blind, but, no matter what physical abilities a man or woman might have, if such persons cannot see the beauties of nature as we can, their affliction is the greatest of all, though in the case ofa person born blind the affliction would, perhaps, not be so acute.
– Some honorable senators apposite think they have sight, but they are mentally blind.
– Senator de Largie has a voice, but it is not a very good one at times, and, though I hear it very often, it is’ not with advantage to myself. I am supporting the proposal because of my sympathy with the blind. I know honorable gentlemen opposite are equally sympathetic, and to them I would say, Let us take a step in the right direction as indicated, and then we can ask for further assistance to invalid pensioners who are suffering from some other disability. A blind person may not be incapacitated, as far as personal exertion is concerned, as much as a man minus two legs or minus two arms, but I recognise we must make a start somewhere, and I am whole-heartedly with Senator Earle in seeking to give further assistance to them.
– Then make this provision apply to others.
– I am prepared to take one step at a time.
– I will go the “whole hog” if you will move in that direction.
– If I did that, my action would be anathema to the honorable senator. The question of additional expenditure is not involved in the amendment. It is only a provision enabling the blind to buttress their pensions payments to the extent of £104 a year. Under the present Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act a pensioner is entitled to 12s. 6d. a week, and is allowed, by personal exertion, to bring the amount up to about £65 a year, and this proposal, if carried, would make the total payment about £124 a year; but it will not mean payment by the Commonwealth of an amount greater than at present. The only argument from the other side against the amendment is that there are other persons who should receive this assistance. I believe there are; but I am prepared to start with the blind, and include the others later on.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added (Senator Earle’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Conduct of Business.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I am buoyed up with great hope that . the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill will be ready for honorable senators tomorrow. If it does appear, as I anticipate, I shall be under the necessity of asking them to suspend the Standing Orders, to enable me at least to carry it up to the point of second reading, when, if they desire an adjournment, I shall be ready to meet their wish.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170905_senate_7_83/>.